Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 12 Hansard (14 November) . . Page.. 3608 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
this matter is not serious enough to warrant contempt, but it comes down to a judgment call on the value you place on respect for privacy.
As a society we have clear standards articulated in legislation on other personal communication such as letters and telephone calls. The question we dealt with in this inquiry is really no different. While there are specific issues relating to the nature of email communication, such as the need to open an email to see who the intended recipient is, this report clearly distinguishes between unauthorised receipt only and the continuing unauthorised receipt, retention, copying and distribution of email. This is not just a judgment call on the question of privacy; it is also a judgment call on the importance of us in the Legislative Assembly setting very high standards.
This report has serious implications for the work of the Assembly and its standing in the community. It is important that as community leaders we show ourselves willing to apply reasonable standards to our work. This inquiry was very difficult for everyone concerned and it was not a pleasant task. I am aware of the possible consequences of our findings. If members read the report, they will find it careful and measured. I would ask those of you who follow me in this debate to adopt the same approach. Please do not trivialise this important issue by using it as an excuse for some partisan head-kicking.
We believe that Mr Strokowsky's actions meet the criteria of impropriety, seriousness and intent and directly relate to Mr Wood's duties as a member. So we have concluded that Mr Strokowsky is guilty of contempt of the Legislative Assembly. We have recommended that Mr Strokowsky make a prompt and unreserved apology for his conduct in this matter to the Legislative Assembly in writing through the Speaker.
In view of the adverse effect that this finding of contempt will have on Mr Strokowsky's professional reputation, the committee made no further recommendation for the imposition of a penalty.
The committee found no evidence to suggest that any member of the Assembly had any knowledge of Mr Strokowsky's access to Mr Wood's emails. Nor did it find evidence that any other member of the opposition's staff in the Assembly had sufficient knowledge of the access and use being made of the emails to suggest that any other staff member could also be in contempt of the Assembly.
MR HARGREAVES (10.44): These are not very pleasant occasions. I wish to comment on the way in which the committee went about its business. I thought the contributions made by Mr Smyth and by Ms Tucker were in the correct spirit. In my view, the committee gave very honest consideration to a very serious matter, even though it was a difficult one. I would also like to express my appreciation, and I am sure Ms Tucker's and Mr Smyth's, to the committee secretary, Derek Abbott, who did a lot of the research into parliamentary precedents and the references which were particularly helpful for those of us who do not have that kind of knowledge.
Ms Tucker indicated to the Assembly pretty well what the deliberations were all about and what approach was taken. It needs to be stressed that although the committee was unable to make a finding in respect of some situations it does not mean that those situations did not exist. We had no evidence to say that they did exist or did not exist.